April 4, 2018
You may not have seen it or know anyone who has had it,
but measles is a looming threat, especially for children who are not
vaccinated. Measles — declared
eliminated in the United States in 2000 thanks to vaccines — has returned to
Texas and other areas. Physicians say the shot to prevent measles is the best
defense against it. Unfortunately, declining vaccination rates have allowed the
disease to return.
is a virus that travels by direct contact or through the air. It is so
contagious a person can catch measles just by walking into a room where a
measles patient had been present and then left two hours earlier.
“You don’t want to get this,” said
Jason Terk, MD, a Keller pediatrician and member of Texas Medical Association’s
(TMA’s) Be Wise — ImmunizeSM Physician Advisory Panel. “Besides
making a child miserable during the illness, measles can lead to very severe
complications like measles pneumonia, and brain inflammation that can appear
For some children, measles can be fatal.
typically last seven to 10 days, start with a fever, followed by a cough, runny
nose, and red eyes. About three to five days later, a person with measles will
develop a rash that starts on his or her head and travels to the rest of the
body. Someone with the disease can be contagious for up to four days before a
rash appears — possibly before knowing he or she has measles. People with
measles also are contagious after the rash appears.
can treat only the symptoms, not the illness. Treatment can include medicines
to reduce fever and boost low vitamin A levels. Doctors may prescribe
antibiotics for secondary bacterial infections.
vaccine was developed in 1963. It is 97-percent effective at preventing the disease. The shot for measles,
commonly called the MMR vaccine, also protects children against mumps and
rubella. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends two
doses of vaccine for children — at 12-15 months of age and at 4-6 years. And
even if someone who has been vaccinated gets measles, the illness should be
vaccine was developed, measles killed 2.6 million people annually, according to
the World Health Organization. Measles remains a leading cause of death among
children worldwide, claiming the lives of some 89,000 each year.
thought to be eradicated in America, measles seems to be making a comeback. In
North Texas, 21 people, mostly children who were never vaccinated, came down
with measles at a Dallas-area megachurch in 2013. The outbreak began when a man
who contracted the virus on a trip to Indonesia then visited the church.
is becoming more common. Measles cases in the United States typically are
imported from other countries where measles remains an active threat. When
someone who hasn’t been vaccinated is exposed to measles during international
travel, he or she can bring it back here with the potential to infect others.
year, six people who had not been vaccinated were confirmed to have measles in
“Diseases like measles are kept at bay because a critical mass of people are
vaccinated against them,” Dr. Terk wrote in a letter to The Dallas Morning News following
the Ellis County outbreak. “Outbreaks occur when that
critical mass is eroded.”
Even a small group of unvaccinated individuals can pose a
risk for the population at large. A 2017 study published in JAMA Pediatrics showed a 5-percent
reduction in measles vaccination coverage among 2- to 11-year-olds nationwide
could result in a three-fold increase in measles cases across the United
Physicians urge the MMR vaccination to prevent unnecessary suffering,
“There are very few viruses as contagious as measles,”
said Edward Dominguez, MD, a Dallas infectious disease specialist, and member
of the TMA Be Wise — Immunize Physician Advisory Panel. “We need to really
focus on getting kids vaccinated to prevent it.”
Find more information on measles and
vaccinations on the TMA website.
TMA is the largest state
medical society in the nation, representing more than 51,000 physician and
medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 112 component county
medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to
improve the health of all Texans. Be Wise — Immunize is a joint initiative led
by TMA physicians and medical students, and the TMA Alliance. It is funded in
2018 by the TMA Foundation thanks to H-E-B, TMF Health Quality Institute,
Pfizer Inc., and gifts from physicians and their families.
Be Wise — Immunize is a service mark of the Texas Medical
TMA Contacts: Brent Annear (512) 370-1381; cell: (512) 656-7320; email: brent.annear[at]texmed[dot]org
Marcus Cooper (512)
370-1382; cell: (512) 650-5336; email: marcus.cooper[at]texmed[dot]org
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